Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Company Reports - the next generation

Up until 2008 (and thanks to the Companies Act 2006) it was once a requirement for any UK listed company to send a printed copy of their annual report to every single shareholder. Luckily that is not the case now and a lot of companies have realised that providing their report online (in HTML format) has obvious benefits.

For example:
  • It assists their overall Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)Efforts
  • It facilitates viewing/downloading only part of the report (useful if the user is on a low bandwidth connection)
  • It contributes to a more environmentally friendly company profile
Nexxar, a leader in providing online company reports, carry out an annual survey benchmarking international companies and their use of online reports.

The report for 2009 which was released this month has found that almost half (48.7%) of those surveyed had a full HTML version of their site and according to them:

HTML is the only way to make full use of the Internet’s potential.
HTML has gradually increased in its usage, compared to just PDF's or images (usually in JPG format). And surprisingly it it UK companies that led the way, with 64% of the FTSE100 found to use HTML.

It is also interesting to note that in a piece of research focusing on Corporate Responsibility done by Radley Yeldar earlier this year, they found only 9% of those companies they surveyed (mainly FTSE 100 and FTSE 250's) used just HTML for their reports, with 47% using HTML and PDF combined.

Even US regulations now encourage company reporting in formats such as HTML, rather than just providing PDF's of the report pages. However using HTML is just the start of what you can achieve with your online company report. Animations and even audio & video (whilst remaining accessible to as many users as possible, so all sound media must have a transcript) add interactivity and help in the communication of company information to shareholders, employees, journalists and others.

So where's the future going for company reports? Well, depending upon who you ask, you get different answers....
  • Those who have a CEO & board who are professionally media trained would say you should put as much (relevant) video into your online report
  • Those who are standards based would say that you should make a lot of use of XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) or at least have sensible tagging of relevant content
  • And those who are on a budget will wait and see what works or becomes legislation
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